Using Iranian bank funds released from US sanctions, South Korea paid Iran’s $18 million in unpaid dues owed to the United Nations
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Using Iranian bank funds freed from U.S. sanctions, South Korea has paid Iran’s $18 million in unpaid UN dues, Seoul said Sunday. The measure was apparently approved by Washington to restore Tehran’s suspended voting rights at the global body.
South Korea’s foreign ministry said Seoul paid the sum using frozen Iranian assets in the country after consulting with the US Treasury – a potential signal of flexibility amid floundering nuclear negotiations.
The ministry said it expected Iran’s voting rights to be restored immediately after they were suspended earlier this month for overdue dues.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the English-language branch of Iranian state television, Press TV, quoted Iran’s permanent representative to the UN as confirming that dues had been paid and that Iran’s voting rights would soon be restored. He did not specify how the money was paid.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran, as an active member of the United Nations, has always been committed to paying its dues on time,” said Majid Takht-e Ravanchi. He expressed outrage at the United States for what he called its “brutal and unilateral sanctions against Iran” that have blocked Tehran from accessing funds to pay arrears over the past two years.
The funds had been seized from Korean banks under sanctions imposed by former President Donald Trump after he withdrew the United States from Tehran’s landmark nuclear deal with world powers. The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control must license such transactions under US banking sanctions on Iran. The Treasury did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the funds released.
The Biden administration wants to reinstate the 2015 nuclear deal, which granted sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
Diplomats are now engaged in delicate negotiations to revive the deal in Vienna, though a breakthrough remains elusive as Iran abandons all limitations imposed by the deal on its nuclear enrichment. The country now enriches a small amount of purity up to 60% – a short technical step away from weapons quality levels – and runs much more advanced centrifuges than allowed.
Under the UN Charter, a nation that owes dues for the last two full years loses its right to vote in the General Assembly.
A letter from Secretary General Antonio Guterres released earlier this month revealed that Iran was among several delinquent countries on that list, which also includes Venezuela and Sudan. The General Assembly can make exceptions to the rule, determining that certain countries face circumstances “beyond the member’s control”.
According to the Secretary General’s letter, Iran had to pay a minimum of $18.4 million to restore its voting rights.
Iran also lost its right to vote in January last year, prompting Tehran to lash out at the United States for imposing crippling sanctions that froze billions of dollars in Iranian funds in banks around the world. Tehran regained the right to vote last June after making the minimum payment of its dues.
In recent years, Iran has pressured Seoul to release about $7 billion in revenue from oil sales that remains frozen in South Korean banks since the Trump administration tightened sanctions. against Iran.
The frozen funds are on the line as diplomats struggle to revive the nuclear deal. Senior South Korean diplomats, including Choi Jong Kun, the first deputy foreign minister, visited Vienna this month to discuss the fate of the assets with their Iranian counterparts.
Associated Press writers Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, and Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.